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25th February 2020
Joining the Remedy Community With Alan Wake's American Nightmare

Throughout 2020, we're celebrating Remedy Entertainment's 25th anniversary with the community! We will have regular features looking back across their entire catalogue from Death Rally to CrossFire X, with each title or live-action series getting their own dedicated month. For February, we're focusing on the arcade action title, Alan Wake's American Nightmare. We're also going to be using the hashtag #Remedy25 for all of our celebrations throughout the year, and we'd love for you to join us!

Having discovered Alan Wake in late 2010 through a Let's Play, Alan Wake's American Nightmare was the first Remedy game that I had followed from its reveal to its launch. At the time I was building The Sudden Stop and I don't think anyone in the community was expecting to hear news about a new Alan Wake game so soon, especially as the studio had only just wrapped up the two DLC packs just a year prior. Turns out a lot was going on behind the scenes.

At the time, the company was in the middle of becoming a multi-project studio. It's something that is mentioned quite frequently now as a fairly recent change, especially in keynotes, marketing, and financial reports. They describe how the developers are now in the second stage of their transformation, part of a larger-scale shift which has been the focus since Quantum Break. This move sees smaller development teams being formed to ensure the feel of a small indie studio that Remedy had originally been, combined with the financial stability of a larger company. It's a good business decision as it means that the studio will be more secure, but in actuality, the shift (or rather a version of that same plan) had started much much earlier, with two development teams being formed following the launch of Alan Wake.

A screenshot from the Remedy website, taken around 2013/2014.

Around 2012, the studio was hiring for two main groups; Next Big Thing and Mobile. The Next Big Thing would focus on delivering AAA experiences and the kind of games that Remedy are best known for, with Mobile working on new IPs for iOS and Android devices.

Between 2010 and 2014, the teams had shipped Alan Wake plus two separate paid DLC packs, worked with Mountain Sheep and Cornfox & Brothers on a mobile version of Death Rally which came to Android and iOS in 2011 and Steam in 2012, developed and shipped Alan Wake's American Nightmare, began prototyping other mobile games including a fantasy-themed title, launched Agents of Storm on iOS in collaboration with Flaregames, and was already into Quantum Break's development with the announcement coinciding with the reveal of the XBOX One. It was a busy few years!

Joining the community around this time, there were a lot of diverse titles being launched and the community was electric. I would spend my lunch breaks on the Alan Wake Forums where a number of developers would spend time too, talking to fans about the games or just simply hanging out. Some of my favourite threads came from this time too, including posts that took forum members and put them into X-COM (I died first) and the sudden appearance of Potted Plant from the future. That first year was extremely influential for me and I absolutely adored the atmosphere in the fandom and just how welcoming everyone was.

The marketing was also so perfect. While the title was only developed in eight months and marketed in seventy-four days, the advertising was just spot on in terms of fan-service. For the game, the studio brought in Ilkka Villi to take part in some of the promotional videos from the Developer Diaries to the Alan Wake's American Nightmare Super Effective Sales Trailer. Alongside them, there was also a live Q&A chat with the developers, and a lot of community-focused projects which really pulled me into the fandom. There was also just the general banter of the forums that kept fans logging in every day; weird things that just randomly happened at the studios or just someone in the community making cool things, for me the boards were one of my favourite places to be.



At the same time, I was studying English Language for a qualification and specifically studying the use of language in advertising. For my dissertation, I selected a handful of game studios including Remedy and looked at how the developers in each of the companies communicated. I was new to the community at the time, and slightly nervous about stepping into a community which was already well established, so I figured it would allow me to get to know what the company was like. What Remedy had that no other studio showed as clearly was a sense of unity. Compliments about someone's work often led to them expanding on other members of the team. It was "we" and "us" when talking about a collaborative effort and "I" when it was something that they didn't want the studio to be associated with; the latter usually happened if an interviewee was backed into a specific answer but there was no official studio response, just what the developer believed with the information they have. I found out years later that it was something that the studio had specifically trained for and wanted to show, and it was just a coincidence that I was studying the topic and selected them. But honestly, as a Language student who was also stepping into that community, it was simply so nice to have that.

Following American Nightmare's announcement at Spike's VGA (Video Game Awards).  I spent some of my time in the community, especially the forums, but mainly working on the site and was working like crazy to get it done ahead of the launch. After so many long nights and months of writing, the site was ready just over two weeks ahead of the game's release date. It was just an exciting time for me to be joining the community with a new Alan Wake title on the horizon and being able to write about it.

The game was much different than the Alan Wake title that it followed, but Remedy made clear that it wouldn't be a sequel. The game is much smaller and more condensed, covering just three locations told across three Acts with newly introduced situations and a story binding it together. The price was also a sixth of what you would be paying for a AAA game, but also delivered content and gameplay value beyond what you would initially expect. Alongside the story mode, there was also a "Fight Til Dawn" horde campaign which apparently kickstarted the whole game behind the scenes. The mode allowed fans to compete against friends on a leaderboard and gain achievements based on how well the night went.

The first official screenshot of Alan Wake's American Nightmare, released in 2011.

American Nightmare is one of those games which also gained new layers of meaning several times in the years that followed.

As the years went on, it took on new identities. At the start, it was considered as both a spiritual sequel but also a spin-off. With Quantum Break's reveal two years later, it was now seen as the studio's final attempt to work with the series for a while with development already underway on the time travel adventure for Microsoft. When the Alan Wake 2 Prototype launched on Polygon, fans could see connections between the prototype and the arcade title such as an expanded list of enemy types, the Rewriting Reality gameplay mechanic, as well as various assets and locations.

It's a game that I have a lot of love for, and one which also had impeccable timing personally. It's lighthearted at times, but also incredibly blunt and serious at others, with thrilling surprises, and lots of Poets of the Fall.

In many ways, American Nightmare is in itself a love letter to the original game. With Remedy having to move to new projects, the game wrapped up with Alan fighting his evil doppelgänger, Mr Scratch, and returning home to be reunited with Alice. I don't think Alan Wake is a series where there are many happy endings, but they wanted to give it one, or rather the indication that there could be one. And I like to think that it happened, at least until the sequel comes.

My cat, Scratch, named after Alan's mischevious doppelgänger.


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-- CURRENT PROJECTS --

The Crossfire Series

-- CONSOLE & PC GAMES --

The Control Series

The Quantum Break Series

The Alan Wake Series

The Max Payne Series

-- MOBILE GAMES --

-- LIVE ACTION SERIES --

Beyond the shadow you settle for, there's a miracle illuminated.